Friday, 7 June 2013
Untangling facts from a subjective autobiography
I’m finding out some facts about Clara’s life form some documents we have but also from her son, Ernst Lehrs’ autobiography Gelebte Erwartung. It is a little confusing. He tells us (44-45) that she worked at the Lauenstein from 1924 but then that she was taken ill in February 1926 with a severe chest infection. Her son offers her some spiritual encouragement. A doctor tries the rather drastic measure of sitting her in a body-temperature bath and then throwing cold water on each side of her chest. This makes her breath in suddenly and clears the airways of the sticky mucus. The doctor admits he took a risk – the patient must have a strong heart in order to be able to endure this.
Lehrs now skips forward to sometime in an indefinite future and tells us of Clara visiting another doctor who tells her she has a “Heldenpuls” – a hero’s heartbeat. Ah. We all know that she will have to have one of those for what lies ahead in an even further future.
Lehrs then tell us (45) that there are changes at the institution in 1927 that make Clara almost wants to go back to Berlin. He must prevent this. He remembers a conversation that he’d had with her at the time of the hyperinflation. He told her the story about the rucksack – he’d seen it for sale and had been shocked that it would cost 1,000,000 Marks so had hesitated. When he went back a few days later it cost 5,000,000 Marks. He did buy it then. Clara then mentions that she could perhaps sell her pearls – jewellery that she had kept as investment – and set up a house for him and other Waldorf School teachers.
He is able to remind her of this idea and in fact they do this though by 1927 -28 when they begin the work the hyperinflation is no longer and selling the pearls doesn’t quite cover the costs. At this point, confusingly, he tells us that she is still convalescing. A long convalescence? Or is she taking a cure? He actually talks of “reconvalescing”.
Lehrs is not precise about the dates and I’m having to piece them together. It’s a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Where does each piece fit? I have made ups some bits and pieces though I now think I have them wrong and now need to rewrite. Here is an interesting thought: it’s only through writing that I’ve found out that they didn’t fit. Writing becomes a try-out. So, there’s even more writing and rewriting than normal.